Issue 78, Summer 2000

Review: Teaching Sex, by Jeffrey Moran

by Marjorie Heins

Teaching Sex, by Jeffrey Moran, recently published, provides a timely historical overview on the politics of sexuality education. Tracing the beginnings of the fear-based approach to sex-ed in the “social hygiene” movement of the early 20th century, Moran takes the story through the innovative work of SIECUS in the 1960s, the Christian right’s attacks on sex-ed as “semi-legal pornography” and a “communist plot,” and its success in the 1980s in introducing distorted curricula like Sex Respect. Moran nicely demonstrates how the right has used teenage sexuality as a wedge issue in advancing its political agenda. His major omissions are the 1996 “abstinence-until-marriage” law, and any comparative discussion of European sexuality education. Moran takes a dim view of the ability of sex-ed to affect adolescents’ behavior; but he might have thought differently had he investigated the European approach. The book is nevertheless a valuable resource full of fascinating information.